Skip to content

Chapter Six


Robert Ford was within a whisker of succeeding Thomas Higinbotham as Engineer-in-Chief, and he undoubtedly had friends in the new government that would have spoken for him. Woods declared that Ford’s ‘whole heart was in his work’, and that even during his suspension over the Bain affair ‘he was so anxious to see the work of the Department go on all right that he attended his office regularly every day’.[1] Francis Longmore went further, not hesitating to say that Mr. Ford was about the best man there ever was in the Railway Department, and one they could not do without.[2] Mr. A. T. Clark attested to Ford’s reputation in the Railway Department ‘as being as honest and straight forward a public officer as there was in the government service’,[3] but a subsequent Parliamentary Inquiry found that that Ford showed a ‘want of courtesy towards his subordinates’.[4] Woods had to admit that his friend ‘might not be a man at all adapted to smoothing down Members of Parliament’.[5] Unfortunately for him, one of these MP’s was now Minister of Railways. J.B. Patterson had ‘no great love’ for Ford, later referring to him as ‘an awkward man to deal with…and one with a great deal of cunning’.[6]

Robert Ford

Ford was a gifted engineer and inventor with a gift some felt bordered on genius, but he had risen from the trade ranks, beginning as a blacksmith.[7]

Emigrating from his home in Gateshead, County Durham in 1852, he arrived in Melbourne shortly before his eighteenth birthday, already a proficient blacksmith, trained by his father. It appears he probably learned surveying skills on the Geelong and Melbourne Railway.[8] His career with the Victorian Railways began in 1860 as the Inspector of Works on the Moorabool Viaduct construction. Subsequently he entered the drafting office and rose to become Chief Draughtsman to Robert Watson, then a Resident Engineer. After working with Ford for seventeen years, Watson wrote;

I cannot speak too highly of his ability, of his untiring perseverance and undivided attention to his duties – it seems to me he never rests, and it is not too much to say that he has done as much, if not more, than any other officer on our railways…’ [9]

Ford was what became known as a workaholic, often working well into the night and on Sundays, [10] sometimes paying other railway draftsmen to help him with consulting work ‘on the side’, the greatest being the design of the temporary wooden trestle bridge over the Murray River for the Deniliquin and Moama Railway. Of 1,600 feet in length with a central lifting span operated by a steam winch to allow river steamers to pass beneath, it was built in three months for about £2,000 and enabled the railway to open some 31 months before the permanent bridge was completed, at a cost of over £80,000. [11] Both Robert Watson and Robert Ford were confident to ride the first engine as it crept across the bridge.[12] It was fit enough for its purpose, but some nervous passengers preferred to take the punt across the river rather than brave the creaking, swaying structure! [13] Ford was said to have introduced wooden bridges on Victorian Railways,[14] but the timber approach spans to the Saltwater River bridge at Footscray were made under Darbyshire’s supervision.

Ford and his Rock Bearer
R.G. Ford with his patent Rock Borer

Ford patented a number of inventions, the most important being a rock-boring machine illustrated above which was manufactured at the Vulcan Foundry in Geelong and used in the mines at Bendigo and elsewhere on the goldfields. [15]

He invented this in the quiet years of the late 1860’s, when new railway construction was on hold,[16] and continued its development throughout the next decade. A demonstration was given the Vice-Regal party that travelled up to Beechworth in July 1876 for the opening of the line and then made a special side trip to the Rocky Mountain Extended Company’s mine to watch a Ford’s rock-borer in action.[17] Manufactured in Victoria and protected by tariffs from competing machines, Ford’s rock-borer worked, but was notoriously prone to failure and a headache for the mining companies more or less compelled to use it. The Extended Company, at Stawell, was so frustrated with its Ford rock-borers that it set them aside and imported a ‘National’ rock-borer from USA at considerable expense. Compared with the National drill, which was ‘solid, simple, and compact’, Ford’s was ‘ricketty, perplexing, and complicated.’ [18] Nevertheless, it must have been a lucrative sideline for Ford, as in 1877 he was able to purchase the mansion ‘Whitmuir Hall’ at East Brighton from Thomas Bent, MLA.[19] Sold with 15 acres of land, including an orchard and gardens, it was a big step up for a man that began as a blacksmith, and a provocation to envy for many of his colleagues.

His most controversial invention was the new reversible point lever which he had manufactured by Bain and Sons and shown at the Sydney Exhibition. These were the levers specified for all the points in the new Melbourne Yard.[20] As Engineer for Construction, he was basically responsible for re-design of the running lines and sidings between Spencer Street and North Melbourne,[21] which served the VR for seventy years. As Ford’s career advanced, some of the formally trained engineers endeavoured to keep him in his place, but Ford was an ambitious man and sought out friends that might help him overcome professional barriers. He made himself indispensable to Longmore and Woods, themselves seeking willing conduits into the Railway Department who could help them out-manoeuvre Thomas Higinbotham.[22] But he had an abrasive and tactless manner which made him enemies and lost him friends. He ostracised the Accountant, Robert Singleton, for his part in supplying Higinbotham with information about the Bain and Son contract.[23] Woods, however, remained a friend, and both Woods and Ford were despised by Mr. Fraser, MLA for their ‘rude and uncouth manner’.[24] Woods admitted that his friend ‘was not a nice man to talk to, but his mind is constantly engrossed in his business’.[25]

With Ford in such contention and having no formal professional qualifications, J.B. Patterson had to find a replacement for the late Engineer-in-Chief. He might have given the job back to Robert Watson, but the former Engineer-in-Chief had been engaged as a consultant by the Tasmanian government[26] and was about to undertake a mammoth survey for a line from Roma to the Gulf of Carpentaria in outback Queensland.[27] But Patterson had another good candidate in William Elsdon, the former General Manager and Chief Engineer of the M&HBUR, who had continued to manage the ex-Hobson’s Bay lines autonomously as a virtual subsidiary of the Victorian Railways since their take-over two years previously, on 1st July 1878. A friend of Higinbotham, he was gazetted as Engineer-in-Chief on 17th September 1880. All this was happening while the exhibits were arriving for Melbourne’s International Exhibition, and the notorious bushranger Ned Kelly was being prepared for trial.[28]

Elsdon’s Management

Berry’s Cabinet had refused to allow the Hobson’s Bay lines to be integrated into the Victorian Railways, their old management being retained with Elsdon reporting direct to the Minister, John Woods. So tight were government funds during the constitutional crisis that Berry insisted on Cabinet approval for any expenditure on the ex-M&HBUR lines.[29] This was to prove a disastrous economy. To make matters worse, the Secretary of the M&HBUR had been shot dead by a disgruntled employee four weeks after the government takeover, and Elsdon was left as ‘everything and everybody’.[30] He had been with the Hobson’s Bay lines from their earliest days, and had trained as a fitter with the great British railway engineering firm, Robert Stephenson & Sons.[31] He had been sent out by that firm in 1854 to supervise the commissioning of Australia’s first steam locomotives on the M&HBR.[32] He was soon made their Chief Engineer and General Manager, a position he retained for 25 years.[33]

William Elsdon C.E.
William Elsdon C.E. Engineer-in-Chief and General Manager, 1879 – 1881. Melbourne Punch, 17 March 1904, p.13.

But the senior VR engineers viewed the M&HBUR with disdain. Higinbotham and Meikle had reviewed the lines in 1873 and 1876, and decided they would be a bad bargain for the government.[34] If the senior men felt this way, there is little doubt their views were echoed by subordinates, and that Elsdon’s appointment from outside their ranks generated some resentment, as Meikle’s had a decade earlier. Moreover, the departure of Higinbotham created turmoil, with real hatred seething between some of the senior men, Robert Ford being the focus of much of it. Within six months, Francis Rennick, one of the Resident Engineers under the old management structure, together with a number of other engineers, were plotting Ford’s removal,[35] maintaining secret diaries recording dealings they had with Ford.[36] Elsdon’s experience as a father to the small M&HBUR family had singularly ill-fitted him for managing this difficult bunch at the Victorian Railways, or for coping with the daily interference of politicians. His short incumbency was paralysed by indecision.[37] One of the draughtsman, when comparing the engineering office under Higinbotham, Watson and Ford noted that it had functioned in a state of high efficiency, but after Elsdon came

‘we could not get definite answers to definite questions – things were put off for a long time…’

There was

‘a sort of want of unanimity among the officers’[38]

Before Thomas Higinbotham was reinstated, Ford had surveyed the Caulfield to Mordialloc railway, taking the line on a direct route from the Up side of Caulfield and to the west of the Racecourse. This was the easiest and cheapest route from a construction point of view, but happened to run close to his property ‘Whitmuir Hall’. When Higinbotham returned as Engineer-in-Chief in March 1880, he disapproved of Ford’s survey. Ford was soon suspended pending the outcome of the Bain Inquiry, and a new survey of the Mordialloc line was made, taking it east of the Caulfield Racecourse.[39] Immediately after Higinbotham’s death, Ford was reinstated as Engineer for Construction, but in the meantime surveys had been placed in the hands of William Martin. Ford moved unilaterally to reassert his control over surveys,[40] which had been part of his responsibilities under John Woods and Robert Watson. His letter advising of this change should have come from Elsdon, and the new Engineer-in-Chief gently countermanded Ford’s instruction. In January 1881 surveys were formerly returned to William Martin.[41] Soon afterwards Elsdon and the Commissioner, J.B. Patterson, visited Caulfield to finalise the route for the Mordialloc line, choosing the route east of the Racecourse, with some adjustment. Ford was not present, although he ‘was most anxious to go’. His exclusion was hard to take, and he felt slighted.[42] As Engineer for Construction, he had to approve plans and specifications prepared by the surveyors, but with the Engineer for Surveys now reporting directly to the Engineer-in-Chief, Ford refused to deal with requests from Martin unless directed through Elsdon.[43] This needlessly held up the flow of work, for which Ford was later censured.[44]

Ford also refused to speak with Branch Accountant John Singleton or even reply to his memos.[45] But not all the animosity in the Department was associated with Ford. Insecurity and resentments had festered since the sackings of Black Wednesday in January 1878, and John Woods’s management reorganisation that followed. Woods had sought to bring all railway accounting under G.T.A. (George) Lavater, and dismiss surplus staff. Lavater advised that having accounting within each Branch created an ‘imperium in imperio’ (State within a State), making a large portion of accounting work useless. [46] John Singleton was one singled out for retrenchment, but Robert Watson, then Engineer-in-Chief, had insisted that Singleton continue to report directly to himself, as he and his assistant accountant

‘were almost indispensable to me in connection with the management of contract accounts; they always know what I want done, and I know from very long experience what they can do; it would be years before I could have the same confidence in any other men. I must, therefore, be always able to command their services.’ [47]

So Singleton stayed, but no love was lost between him and Lavater.

George Lavater Victorian Railways
George Lavater, Railway Accountant 1872-1887. Australasian Sketcher, 24 February 1887 p.28.

Thomas Bent Takes Over and Ford’s non-co-operation with Elsdon

J . B . Patterson’s term as Commissioner was short. He had tried to give Elsdon scope to manage without the political interference that had so dogged the railways over the previous decade, but in July 1881 the Premier resigned. Graham Berry’s reform efforts were spent, but it was not until Thomas Bent crossed the floor from the Conservatives that former Berryite, Sir Bryan O’Loghlen, was able to form a minority government. The Conservatives lent conditional support in order to stop Graham Berry regaining office. For his reward, Thomas Bent was made Minister for Railways.[48]

As a young man Bent had worked at carting bricks, as a market-gardener and as a rate-collector for the Brighton Council. He was elected a member of the Moorabbin Shire Council in 1862. He had a rather rough appearance and gruff manner but was nevertheless amiable and good-hearted. He would ride up to a ratepayer on his ‘flea-bitten grey’, throw one leg across the saddle and say ‘Brown, I want your rates!’ and generally get them. He endeared himself to the residents and decided to challenge the sitting Member for Brighton in the 1871 election. This was Thomas’s brother George Higinbotham, former Chief Secretary and the most well-known public figure in Australia. Bent canvassed the electorate well, winning in a sensational electoral upset.[49] He had quickly aligned himself with John Woods and as discussed, later played a part in the dismissal of Thomas Higinbotham. As the railways’ new Commissioner, he was to maintain his friendship with Woods and take political interference to new depths, but the first sign of trouble was not of his making. It was an almost exact repetition of the incident which had led to Ford’s suspension the previous year. Just as a design fault with the Carapooee Bridge had led to flood damage which Higinbotham wanted Ford to explain, now a flood on the Barwon River had banked up behind the bridge and embankment designed by Ford. Several woollen mills and other businesses whose premises had been flood damaged as a result claimed damages of £28,000 from the government, and on Wednesday 10th August the Crown Solicitor wrote to the Commissioner of Railways that it was

‘absolutely necessary that the engineering officers of your department who were concerned in the construction of the said embankments should afford every assistance in the matter, and that skilled witnesses outside the department should be employed.’

The following Friday Elsdon instructed Ford to assist, and on Monday requested William Zeal to provide external advice. The week went by with no action, so on Friday 19th a desperate officer from the Crown Solicitor’s office called personally on Ford, and finding him out left a memo ‘urgently requesting’ Ford

‘to have a report drawn out immediately, stating the data (in full) on which the embankments of Colac line were constructed, and the names of the engineers who did so.’

He was anxious to have the report the following Monday, and arranged with Elsdon to have a special train provided to take a small group of engineers to Geelong the day afterwards. Monday dawned, and Elsdon sent his clerk to deliver a memo to Ford. ‘I would like you to go to Barwon tomorrow’ wrote the General Manager and Engineer-in-Chief, and ‘don’t forget, like a good fellow, to go with them.’ Incredibly, Ford said he had to go to St Arnaud instead! When news reached the Crown Solicitor at lunchtime, he had a telegram sent to Elsdon urgently asking him to direct Ford to be on the train, as several other senior engineers, both from within and outside the railways had put off engagements to attend. A meeting followed that afternoon, but Ford was most reluctant to have anything to do with the matter. The Crown Solicitor’s officer pleaded ‘Your own reputation is at stake!’ Watson, who was also present, ‘was so struck with Mr Ford’s reluctance that he asked him if he were a shareholder in the woollen mills!’ This may have been what Elsdon was referring to when he later remembered that he noticed ‘a disturbance between Mr. Ford and Mr. Watson.’ [50] At the time, Watson was working as a consulting engineer after his retrenchment from the Victorian Railways in 1880.

Spencer Street Station 1876.
Spencer Street Station and Engineer-in-Chief’s Offices 1876. J.W. Lindt, State Library of Victoria.

It was only at the special request, almost entreaty, of Elsdon that a promise was extracted from Ford to go to Geelong. Nevertheless, next morning he was not on the platform by 10 am, as arranged. The official party waited an extra ten minutes, no doubt with the engine blowing its whistle, but they had to leave without him. So just as Ford had refused to respond to Higinbotham over the Carapooee Bridge, he now refused another direct instruction from his Engineer-in-Chief. But this time the stakes were higher, and an incensed Crown Solicitor complained to Thomas Bent, the new Commissioner of Railways on Thursday 25th. Bent immediately instructed Elsdon to suspend Ford, but once again, no one could find him! For three days efforts were made to find the Engineer for Construction, who was said to be supervising works on the Frankston line. Messengers were sent by cab to Caulfield, Brighton and Mordialloc, but to no avail. The year before, Ford had also decided it was more important to inspect works on the Goulburn Valley line rather than report to his Engineer-in-Chief. Just as that had led to his suspension, so it was again when Elsdon eventually caught up with him on Tuesday 30th.

Ford’s second suspension & Bent’s Barwon Bridge Inquiry – September 1881

Ford’s pay had been stopped on Saturday 25th August.[51] On the following Thursday, a broken wheel caused a serious accident to an ex-M&HBUR train at Jolimont. Four passengers were killed, and thirty nine others injured.[52] Next day, as if there was not bloodletting enough, Rennick and his co-conspirators decided to put the knife into Ford, formally charging him with tyranny, negligence, incompetence, and with employing government officers during government time on private work.[53] These charges were additional to the Barwon Bridge incident which had led to Ford’s suspension, but they were not fresh. Some of the complaints referred to occurrences two years before. Their airing at such a distressing time reflected the parlous state of the railway administration.

Thomas Bent M.L.A.
Thomas Bent M.L.A., Commissioner of Railways 1881 – 1883. Melbourne Punch, 1 August 1889. p.5.

Bent quickly appointed a three man Board of Inquiry into the Barwon Bridge, but announced Rennick’s charges would have to wait until after their report was made.[54] The Board reported a month later, finding that Ford’s excuses of pressure of work and having not been told when the special train was to depart were unacceptable. But they also acknowledged the

very valuable services which, as appears from the minutes of the late Mr. Higinbotham and Mr Watson, Mr Ford has rendered to the country

and their hope that this would

‘not be forgotten in considering their finding on the present charge.’

They rebuked both Ford and Elsdon for not promptly enforcing orders with ‘implicit obedience’ and that laxity on the part of the principal officers had impaired the discipline of the whole department. [55]

Ford’s suspension lasted only six weeks, the Board of Inquiry quickly finding him innocent of any misconduct in regard to the Barwon Bridge.[56] Although he was receiving no pay, Ford attended the office daily. Woods claimed that this prevented the work getting into a ‘hopeless muddle’,[57] but a later inquiry found that Ford’s non-cooperation with other senior officers was partly to blame for the inefficiency that had plagued the Department. His prime concern was surely to keep an eye on the Rennick clique! And well he might. Ford had been back at his desk (officially) for only two months when his enemies stirred up their charges again, this time through the connivance of the Member for Rodney, Mr. Simon Fraser. In a chilling attack on Ford under parliamentary privilege, he called for another Board of Inquiry into the accusations. This sparked a long debate, in which John Woods and Francis Longmore leapt to the defence of their friend, while most other speakers were equivocal in their speeches.[58]

There can be little doubt that the Ford case was merely providing the opposition with an opportunity to embarrass the government. Recriminations over the Jolimont accident were still being thrown about, and Mr. Gillies was on the mark when he observed that

‘it was a matter of notoriety that the permanent staff of the Department was in a state of thorough disorganisation…’ [59]

A Board of Inquiry would serve to keep these issues alive, and maybe bring down the government. But Bent successfully avoided the trap by reminding Members that a three man Board of Inquiry had only two months previously cleared Ford of misconduct.

Bent had hoped that the Railway Department would come out of the Barwon bridge affair ‘triumphantly’, and that the stern warning he gave Ford and Rennick would have cleared the air.[60] Bent too, was critical of his Engineer-in-Chief, holding him ‘just as much to blame’ over the Barwon Bridge affair as Ford.[61] He also supressed Elsdon’s report on the Jolimont accident, which explained how it could have happened anywhere, and that poor maintenance of the ex-Hobson’s Bay rolling stock was not to blame.[62] This left a cloud over the Engineer-in-Chief, with John Woods publicly blaming him. Woods was shifting blame onto Elsdon because he was in turn being blamed by The Age for doing ‘literally nothing to repair the deficiencies which he himself had denounced noisily’, by withholding funds from the ex-Hobson’s Bay lines during his time as Commissioner of Railways.[63] Bent developed a palpable dislike for his Engineer-in-Chief[64] which left Elsdon weaker than ever in his efforts to control his unruly engineers. Elsdon’s response was to procrastinate.

Ford’s third suspension and Inquiry – February 1882

Bent was also now wary of Ford. In January 1882 the Engineer for Construction was seeking to extend the interlocking of the Melbourne Terminal and was pushing the equipment made by Saxby and Farmer, a competitor of McKenzie and Holland. Thomas Higinbotham had chosen the latter for the interlocking of the Melbourne Terminal, and the company had also been preferred in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. Ford’s recommendation threatened to introduce the complexity of two systems, but a cautious Bent decided to call tenders for the interlocking of Richmond so that the bids of the competing companies could be tested.[65]

McKenzie and Holland Interlocking at Spencer Street c1880
McKenzie and Holland Interlocking at Spencer Street c1880

The New Year had seen no letup in the pressure for another Inquiry, and on 8th February 1882,[66] Ford was suspended for the third time in less than two years. Francis Rennick, now Engineer of Surveys, resubmitted his charges to Bent the following week, fully aware that his own job was on the line should Ford be exonerated.[67] Despite Ford’s suspension, Bent included him in the official party which shortly afterwards travelled to Sydney at considerable expense by special train for negotiations with the NSW Ministry on joining the lines of the two colonies at Albury. John Woods was also in the party and both he and Bent wanted Ford’s advice about the bridging of the Murray River. This favouring of a suspended officer raised eyebrows![68]

The following month a three man Board of Inquiry was duly appointed, and proceeded to take copious evidence, aware as they were that two former investigations had failed to silence Ford’s accusers or get rid of him. Twelve charges were made, and over sixteen sitting days the Board heard witnesses and asked 7,870 questions. The inquiry and subsequent preparation of the report took three months to complete, prompting the Board to apologise for its ‘voluminous character’ which ‘has extended to a length which we could not avoid.’ 875 copies were printed for a cost of £226/10/-[69] enough to purchase a house in those days. And to what avail? Ford was absolved of every serious charge but one, the Board finding that many of the complaints were of a frivolous nature, several were unproved and for the others he was not to blame. They dismissed as ‘entirely groundless’ claims that Ford had neglected to properly supervise construction works, and that whereas these claims came from junior officers, both Engineers-in-Chief (Watson and Elsdon) viewed him as a ‘most indefatigable officer’. The Board did, however, find several instances of Ford exhibiting a ‘want of courtesy’ towards his subordinates,[70] and were not impressed with his failure to reply to letters and memos sent by other officers, particularly Rennick, Martin and Singleton. His stubborn refusal to approve plans and specifications had caused delay, and they did not hold him blameless for the resulting disorganisation in the office. But they were equally critical of the Engineer-in-Chief’s failure to resolve disputes and clarify accountabilities between his officers, finding Elsdon’s indecision was the primary cause of his Branch’s disorganisation. The one serious charge of corruption accused Ford of specifying expensive ballast for the Mangalore to Murchison line but then agreeing to substitute cheaper gravel, on terms very favourable to the contractor. The charge was quashed, as Robert Watson took responsibility for what was admitted as a mistake in the specifications.[71]

On one charge Ford’s professional judgement was condemned. This harked back to the Carapooee Bridge, where Ford unaccountably reduced Greene’s provision for a 650 feet waterway to 100 feet, with the result that flood waters washed away part of the approach embankment. This was a matter that had concerned Higinbotham soon after he was reinstated in April 1880, but in the ensuing political turmoil the matter was shelved. Now, two years later, the old Engineer-in Chief’s concerns were vindicated, and Ford was held responsible for the flood damage.[72]

It is sometimes joked that doctors bury their mistakes and lawyers jail them, but engineers build theirs where everyone can see. Watson had taken responsibility for the Barwon Bridge design and the Murchison line ballast mistake, but these were not the cause of his dismissal, and indeed he was soon to be reinstated as Engineer-in-Chief. Neither could Ford reasonably have been dismissed over his mistake with the Carapooee Bridge. Watson’s advocacy for Ford throughout the Inquiry sounds a refreshing note of professional common sense. For two years as Engineer-in-Chief he had worked harmoniously under Woods as Commissioner and with Ford as his Engineer for Construction, during which time the engineering branch functioned to a high state of efficiency.[73] But with weak management under Elsdon, the lingering root of bitterness sprouted up again, causing trouble and defiling many. Bent’s solution was to cut the root out. Francis Rennick was retrenched,[74] and Ford, by then a 48 year old father of nine children, was transferred to the Public Works Department,[75] where he worked on the construction of the Coode Canal before retiring in 1887.[76] The Age lamented that ‘Mr. Ford…has been got out of the way by appointing him to a position where his services are of little value to the country.’ [77] More likely he was moved to where he was of little value to radical politicians and newspapers! Rennick, on the other hand, was re-employed a month later.[78] Ford died at Whitmuir Hall at age of 57, on 22nd November 1891, leaving a fortune valued at £29,123.[79]

Bent’s removal of Elsdon April 1882

Before disposing of Ford and Rennick, Bent resorted to a ‘stupid pettifogging subterfuge’ to get rid of Elsdon; or so it appeared to one member of Parliament.[80] Elsdon was obstinately refusing to approve ballast supplied for the new Caulfield to Mordialloc line. The ballast was sub-standard, and the Engineer-in-Chief had exercised his right to reduce the price he was prepared to pay for it, but he also held off making a personal inspection and giving his approval for its use. And why not, given the strong suspicion that the offending ballast had been supplied by Mrs Bent! [81] When Bent realised he was not going to budge Elsdon, he enlisted the support of the Premier. Sir Bryan O’Loghlen, who asked Elsdon to make an inspection ‘at once’, and agreed to accept whatever decision the Engineer-in-Chief reached. But William Elsdon dug his heels in, and by 6th April he was negotiating retirement, which was settled next day with a fabulous £3,003 golden handshake. This amounted to one month’s pay for each of his 28 years’ service, albeit less than four had been served with the government railways. Moreover, he had received £2,000, a gold watch and a dinner service upon the wind up of the M&HBUR in 1878! [82] Ill health was given as the reason for the Engineer-in-Chief’s retirement, but that was a lie.[83] Mr. Hall, M.L.A. for Moira, scoffed that

‘it appears like saying to him “Do you see what I have in my hand? I advise you to feel unwell”…A few days after…I met him in Collins Street, smoking a cigar and looking as well as ever I saw him look in his life!’ [84]

When Elsdon’s reasons for retiring were examined later, health was not mentioned. Elsdon said it was due to the Minister’s directing his subordinates to prepare plans behind his back.[85] Bent feigned outrage at Elsdon’s payout in Parliament, interjecting that ‘he should be put on the roads’.[86] He accused Elsdon of misleading parliament into purchasing the M&HBUR by making a fraudulent guarantee that the Hobson’s Bay line was in good repair, and thereby blaming him for the Jolimont accident. This was a lie too, as parliament’s decision to purchase the Hobson’s Bay lines was made well before Elsdon’s condition report. More than anyone, it was Bent’s mentor John Woods who was to blame, as during his time as Commissioner he had neglected the Hobson’s Bay lines and made no attempt to examine the condition of the rolling stock or to authorise vital maintenance and renewals. [87] Bent knew this, as one of his first acts as Commissioner the previous September was to have Solomon Mirls, the Locomotive Superintendent, urgently examine the Hobson’s Bay locomotives and rolling stock. Mirls was shocked by what he found, and immediately withdrew a dozen vehicles for urgent repair.[88] Bent was sinking his portfolio deeper into the muck of cronyism than the combined efforts of most of his predecessors! Perhaps the worst excess was his favouring of the Woods hydraulic brake,[89] which Mirls was continuing to fit to carriages and locomotives, despite its clear inferiority and unpopularity among passengers.[90] Bent had shares in the company, and he could see nothing wrong with having his Department purchase ‘excellent gravel’ ballast from ‘My Wife’s Paddock’.[91]

Watson returns as Engineer-in-Chief

With Elsdon and Ford out of the way, Bent invited Robert Watson back for his second term as Engineer-in-Chief. This did not go down well with the conservative press! Watson was said to be a ‘protégé and tool’ of Woods and Bent, lacking the moral courage to stand up to any ‘crack-brained absurdity which these two may wish to carry out’.[92] It was ‘tantamount to abolishing the office of engineer-in-chief, and placing the professional control of the constructive branch in the hands of Mr. Bent.’[93] Instead The Argus proposed William Greene[94] as a competent engineer with a reputation for resisting political interference.[95] Greene and Wells had been left in charge of the Engineer’s Branch when Higinbotham toured overseas. They were pallbearers at his funeral.[96]

Bent strengthened his control by splitting the Engineer-in-Chief’s department, limiting Watson’s responsibility to new construction, and creating a new position of Engineer for Existing Lines, to which he appointed Greene. George Darbyshire was placed in charge of Surveys. All these men now reported directly to the Commissioner, as the Locomotive Superintendent had since 1871 and the Telegraph Engineer since 1878.[97] Bent, a market gardener with nine months experience as Minister of Railways, was now was effectively General Manager. The Age raised no objection.

Instead, they published a venomous letter supporting Watson and bagging Greene, penned under the nom de plume of ‘Driving Wheel’.

‘Mr. Watson is not a man given to ostentation. He does not put on official airs; he does not swagger, nor bully, nor speak in a loud tone of voice. He conducts himself like a gentleman, and does his work properly. The Argus cannot and dare not impugn his professional ability, but it makes a poisonous insinuation that is grossly untrue.’

Mr Greene, on the other hand was a ‘tyro’ with a ‘pigmy brain and puny reputation’.[98] He was blamed for a wash-out and an ensuing derailment on the 1871 group of light lines, but Greene was forced to engineer these lines on a skimpy budget and endeavoured to have them made to higher standards. He was also blamed for a wash-out, derailment and bridge collapse at White Hills, on the mainline to Echuca, and poor construction of a wharf at Echuca.[99] With libellous invective such as this hanging over them, Watson, Greene and Darbyshire met to thrash out how the new arrangements were to work, still with the Ford Inquiry unresolved.[100] The railway head office would not have been a happy place.

Things might have settled down under the re-arrangement, but for the constant meddling of Bent. Public outrage grew, with all three Melbourne newspapers being united in their attacks on railway mismanagement in general, and with political patronage in particular.[101] Contemporary historian H. G. Turner wrote that

‘all sorts of hangers-on had been foisted, under the guise of supernumeraries, into positions of emolument that were virtually permanent…’ [102]

Mr. J.B. Patterson, late Minister of Railways in Berry’s cabinet, had been ‘so hunted by his fellow members of Parliament to find places for their friends and supporters that he formally handed over all appointments and promotions to the Engineer-in-Chief and the Departmental Secretary, and firmly declined to have anything to do with the matter.’ But such a Ministerial arrangement was of course not binding, and when the O’Loghlen Government came, Mr. Bent, the new Minister of Railways, ‘speedily took the whole Department back into his own hands’.[103]

Mr. J.B. Patterson’s light handed encouragement of professional accountability had lasted less than a year, and proved a false dawn. Bent was turning his Department into an ‘asylum for the lame, the halt, and the blind’.[104] It took a strong politician to resist the temptations of patronage at that time, and Bent was not such a man. Rather he seems to have revelled in his new found power, the extent of which can be gleaned from comments made by MP’s themselves. Wettenhall quotes one member, just elected, as already having eighty applications for government jobs, a second who claimed he received thirty or forty letters a day from applicants for employment, and a third who stated that such applications constituted three quarters of each members correspondence.[105]

Bent’s ‘Octopus Bill’ of 1881

Bent’s dubious supplements to his private income were matched by an unparalleled and cynical attempt to gain political favours through the Railway Construction Bill which he had ushered into the Legislative Assembly on 13th October 1881. One of Bent’s first actions as Minister had been to give a £50 per annum salary increase to Engineer of Surveys, William Martin.[106] No doubt Bent hoped that on £650 per annum, Martin would be obliging with plans and estimates for the proposed new lines. Disappointed, Bent dumped Martin, one of the engineers supporting Rennick’s charges against Ford, and elevated his subordinate, George Darbyshire on a salary of £750 per annum.[107] Darbyshire had joined the Railway Department for the third time after being dismissed in the Black Wednesday purge of 1878 and was to have his work cut out for the next ten years as railway mania gripped the colony. He was destined to finally regain his old job as Engineer-in-Chief. The Railway Construction Bill proposed spending exactly £2,433,194/11/-, laying down 56 separate light lines totalling 827½ miles, which managed to bisect parts of every one of the colony’s 55 constituencies![108] Mr Hall, who must have been the Assembly wit, coined it the ‘Octopus Bill’ because it had ‘feelers to stretch everywhere and grasp everything!’ [109] No engineer in the Railway Department would put his name to Bent’s estimates, despite Elsdon’s and Ford’s experience and basic sympathy with light railways. But Woods knew the South Australians were extending the broad gauge railway over the Mount Lofty ranges to Nairne, ‘with 1 in 40 gradients, 40 lb per yards rails and three ton axle loads’ [110] and Bent explained that

‘…it is the policy of this country to act upon the American principle, and to make as many railways as we can. That can only be done by using 40 lb or 50 lb rails, which Mr. Elsdon does not believe in…’ [111]

Elsdon, he said,

‘does not thoroughly approve of the lines I propose…he thinks my estimate of the costs of construction is rather low’.[112]

So he spurned the advice of his own officers and sought out Robert Watson, then still in retirement after his resignation upon Higinbotham’s return in 1880, and William Zeal, who had last been of assistance as one of the ‘independent’ commissioners employed by the Woods Continuous Brake Company.[113] These men knew a thing or two about light lines, Zeal having engineered the Deniliquin & Moama Railway, but even their advice was too conservative for the Sandringham market gardener, who in an effort to wring the last inch out of the funds being sought, decided to build the last 58 miles of lines for £1,500 per mile.

Said Bent,

‘I have not consulted with the engineers at all, but have simply used my common sense…’ [114]

His common sense was apparently capable of calculating the total cost down to the last eleven shillings! But with the purging of Elsdon, Bent overreached himself and calls for an Inquiry into his management became insistent during the early weeks of May, 1882.

Inquiry into Bent’s management May 1882

The Opposition’s motion on 16th May was debated by fourteen speakers, and defeated only after the government agreed to move a similar motion themselves. This was done, with another twenty five members speaking before an affirmative vote was taken.[115] The colony then witnessed the singular spectacle of two simultaneous Parliamentary Inquiries into the behaviour of senior railwaymen (Ford and Bent). The results of these inquiries were tabled the following month. But whereas Ford’s charges had been exhaustively investigated under oath by an independent Board, the government established a Select Committee to hear charges made against Bent, which quickly and predictably exonerated him of any corrupt conduct. Part of the reason for this was that Elsdon, the star witness of the opposition, refused to ‘father the statements’ he had made informally to Mr. Fincham, MLA, who was left bereft of ammunition.[116] Perhaps Elsdon didn’t want to jeopardise his very generous retirement package, but more likely was just sick and tired of the politicking. Nevertheless, it was pretty obvious Bent was using his position to influence Elsdon and other railway engineers to favour projects for his own political and person advantage, and The Age castigated the select Committee’s findings as a complete whitewash.[117]

Inter-Colonial Links and Improved Rolling Stock

The Victorian Railways opened their North Eastern trunk line to Wodonga in November 1873, but the little town on the south bank of the upper Murray River languished for another decade before a genuine through connection was made with the NSW Railways. At the time the Victorian Railways reached the Murray River, the NSW Great Southern line extended only as far as Goulburn, but in July 1876 it was extended to Bowning.[118] Although the gap between Bowning and Wodonga was still a daunting 180 miles, a remarkable overland mail service commenced. Cobb & Co coaches linked the railway termini on an epic journey requiring fourteen changes of horses, three changes of coach and four changes of driver through two nights and a day, completing the run in 26½ hours.

Cobb & Co Coach

Cobb & Co Coach [119]

The drivers of these coaches were local heroes, the undisputed ‘Kings of the Road’ with a deep understanding of both their horses and their road, which they were able to safely negotiate at night with virtually no light: the kerosene lamps on the coach barely throwing their beam past the lead horses.[120] The 41 hour co-ordinated rail-coach-rail service cut a day off the coastal steamship service, and more if the sea voyage was stormy.[121] The following year Cobb & Co were advertising the co-ordinated overland journey for punters anxious to attend the 1877 Melbourne Cup. For £10 they could avoid the dreaded ‘mal de mer’ of the sea voyage, although on arrival at Wodonga they were covered with dust from their hats to their boots! [122] So important was this connection that a special train was despatched from Melbourne after the Royal Mail Steamships delivered the monthly European and Indian mail. The load of this mail train might be less than 100 bags,[123] barely enough to fill one mail van and maybe a couple of Cobb & Co. coaches north of Wodonga, but such was the thirst for news that the expense was gladly incurred. When the railhead reached Wagga Wagga in September 1878[124] the overland co-ordinated service gained in popularity, the Melbourne Cup again generating the most traffic.[125] The railway finally reached Albury, on the north bank of the Murray, in February 1881, but a four mile gap and the colonial border formed by the Murray River still separated the two railways. The Sydney Morning Herald caustically reported that

‘no practical step has yet been taken to connect the lines. The negligence and procrastination shown in this matter bring both discredit and ridicule upon the colonies concerned…when nearly the last rail has been laid…no arrangement has been come to with regard to a bridge over the Murray, the cost of which would be, comparatively speaking, a mere bagatelle.’ [126]

But at least there was a semblance of a through service, and the opening of the Great Southern Railway to Albury was cause for celebration. Two trains for guests were despatched from Sydney on Wednesday 2nd February 1881, mostly comprising bogie cars including the new American saloons built by Hudson Brothers at their Redfern workshops, followed by the Ministerial train for Sir Henry Parkes, the Premier of NSW, and 75 other dignitaries, which made the 400 mile journey in 14 hours. The Ministerial train included the six wheeled radial Governor’s car No.16[127] for Sir Henry, three new Pullman sleeping cars, the Palace Dining car and an American saloon for smokers. It steamed away from Sydney with double headed locomotives at 9.55 pm,[128] its Pullmans the only sleepers in Australia,[129] and the dining car, built on-spec by Hudson Brothers in Sydney after a visit by Robert Hudson to America,[130] also the first of its kind in the Antipodes. Only two days previous the same train had taken an official party to open the railway to Dubbo, but Sir Henry had sent his apologies, pleading poor health.[131] But he made a rapid recovery! With the rest of the ‘nobs’ he arrived at Albury at Noon on 3rd February, and the assemblage proceeded to the marquee. The Victorian Premier, Graeme Berry, Commissioner of Railways, J.B. Patterson, the Engineer-in-Chief, William Elsdon and the Traffic Manager, John Anderson arrived half an hour later after a six hour journey from Melbourne. Elsdon’s opposite number from NSW, John Whitton, was notably absent from the podium, his influence being on the decline after a career that in many ways paralleled Thomas Higinbotham’s.[132]

The NSW trains of American saloons, Pullman sleepers and dining car arrived behind up-to-date 79 class Beyer, Peacock 4-4-0’s. These trains must have been eye-openers to the Victorians, who had made the journey in little four and six wheeled carriages behind a trusty eighteen year old ‘Hawthorn’ 2-4-0. A design of the early 1860’s, these were still Victoria’s main line express engine in 1881. The last of them, No.188, was locally built by Phoenix in 1880 to the old design, and was being proudly displayed at the Melbourne International Exhibition at the time of the Albury celebrations. It unwittingly demonstrated the colony’s manufacturing ability somewhat better than its engineering design capability. Also on display at the Melbourne Exhibition was one of Hudson Brothers new Pullman sleepers to show Victorians ‘one of New South Wales’s common railway carriages, and …the style in which travelling is now carried out in the parent colony’.[133] The fact that most NSW rolling stock was as bad as or worse than Victoria’s[134] was beside the point, for the trains from Sydney shouted that rolling stock design had moved on, and Victoria was lagging.

While inter-colonial passengers and mail made their way in horse drawn wagonettes and drags over the Murray River road bridge the governments of NSW and Victoria dilly dallied. A whole year elapsed before a conference of senior Ministers and railway officers was arranged in February 1882 to decide if Albury or Wodonga would be the break-of-gauge station, and how the line and bridge would be financed. In typical inter-colonial blundering, the meeting which was to have taken place in Albury was aborted because the NSW Minister of Public Works had a conflicting appointment! So at considerable expense a special train was laid on to take the Victorian delegation to Sydney.[135] This comprised Thomas Bent, then the Commissioner of Railways, accompanied by his mentor John Woods, the Commissioner of Trade and Customs, J. H. Graves, the Victorian Railways Traffic Manager, John Anderson, the Locomotive Superintendent, Solomon Mirls and the Engineer for Construction, R.G. Ford. Woods no longer had any formal connection with the railways, but by his presence on this crucial delegation he was effectively a Commissioner of Railways emeritus. ‘You can never make a call at [Bent’s] department without finding Woods about’ was an observation at the time. [136] Graves was there because intercolonial passengers and goods had to submit to a customs examination, and he also wanted to personally investigate the cross-border smuggling which was rife near Albury! But railways’ Engineer-in-Chief William Elsdon was pointedly absent, Bent and Woods preferring to have Robert Ford along instead. Ford was a logical choice due to his bridge expertise and friendship with Bent and Woods, but Elsdon must have felt the snub. Some months later a contract was awarded to Alexander Frew to continue the track to the Murray and build the bridge.[137] Frew had built the line into Albury and might have kept going to Wodonga, given an earlier agreement between the governments, but now he had to mobilise resources afresh at extra cost. But just as happened at Echuca, a temporary wooden bridge was built to provide the link while the permanent iron lattice girder structure was being erected.[138]

While the Murray Bridge was being constructed the Victorians gave thought to the need for a first class express. During their visit to Sydney for negotiations on bridging the Murray to join the two railways, the Victorian delegation took the opportunity to visit the Hudson Brothers rolling stock works at Redfern. [139] It was an impressive establishment, with orders for hundreds of carriages and wagons for the NSW railways. Hudson boasted that he could make a goods truck in three hours, and his workshops were larger than any Victorian rolling stock maker.[140] He could supply the Victorian Railways with rolling stock cheaper than any establishment in Victoria or overseas, even after paying the customs duty imposed by Victoria on imports from NSW. This was put down to the NSW policy of free trade, which lowered the cost of importing iron and steel components such as wheels and axles from England, whereas protectionist Victoria imposed tariff barriers on similar imports and also had higher labour costs.[141] The point was not lost on Thomas Bent and John Woods as they toured the Hudson works. Bent was not a dedicated protectionist,[142] and Woods was pragmatic enough to ignore ideology when it suited, but while no longer in charge of the Railways, they remained his passion. His interest in the Hudson works was more than political; at the time of his visit he was supervising the construction of a carriage to his own design at the Yarra Bank workshops of the Victorian Railways. He had no drawings and came to the workshop three or four mornings a week to supervise the artisans! Only one was made.

Woods’ end-loading centre-isle 1st/2nd class composite carriage 1881. Victorian Railways Rolling Stock Branch.

It must have been evident to the Victorians that the strides made by NSW were due to the importation of modern locomotives and carriages from England and America, which provided the pattern for colonial copies. Train lighting in NSW was vastly superior, as by 1882 gas lighting had been widely adopted.[143] Initial experiments with gas lighting had been made on two American saloons in the second half of 1879,[144] followed by a contract for twelve more in February 1881.[145] But most carriages were lit by a single lamp in the ceiling of each compartment. Many still had oil lamps, and it was not uncommon for them to burn so dimly that reading was impossible.[146] In 1875 Woods had instituted a program of replacing oil lamps with brighter kerosene lamps,[147] but progress was slow.[148] It would be many years before Victorian trains were brightly lit at night.

Victoria had been fixated on finding locomotives fit for light lines, but now with the focus shifting to the Intercolonial mainline the locomotives and rolling stock were found wanting. All the locomotives were small, the Sturrock 2-4-0 exerting about 9,600 lbs tractive effort; enough to drag a 140 ton train up the 1 in 50 ruling grades over the Great Divide.[149] That meant a train of eight little four wheeled carriages, dimly lit with seating for about 300 passengers, packed tight like sardines.[150] The country carriages were typically 24-25 feet long, with four compartments about 6 feet long, and no toilets. Suburban cars of the same length squeezed in five compartments, each just 4’4½” in length, which must have been a torture for tall and fat passengers and those that had to endure the journey with them! Yet Bent had orders placed locally for dozens of these dreadful vehicles, as they provided a quick fix to the problem of growing traffic. John Anderson, the Traffic Manager, complained in December 1881 that there were only 67 carriages suitable for the whole of the county traffic. A traveller reporting a journey by train from Sydney to Melbourne soon after the line to Albury was opened in 1881 was disappointed with the Victorian rolling stock. After crossing the Murray River by road from Albury, setting his watch back 25 minutes to Victorian time and enduring a customs inspection, he and his companions arrived at Wodonga and

‘secured a first-class carriage to ourselves, but we found it very much inferior to the one we had on the New South Wales line. The whole of the carriages appeared to us antiquated and uncomfortable.’ [151]

The Victorian carriage stock was supplemented by the euphemistically named ‘seated trucks’; goods trucks fitted with seats borrowed from station platforms. There were 38 of these in regular service, with a further 185 temporarily fitted with seats during seasons of high demand.[152] In the circumstances Bent’s decision to build more four-wheelers is understandable, as many people could be crammed into trains of half a dozen or so cars without overburdening the small locomotives. All the Victorian Railways engines were small. The difficulty posed by larger American bogie carriages was not only their extra weight, but the reduced ability to closely match the number of seats provided to the passengers offering. There was much talk about the ‘dead weight’ of bogie carriages when they were only partially occupied, whereas with the small four-wheelers, an empty carriage could be left behind, reducing the train load and the locomotive’s consumption of coal.

Bent and Woods probably heard about the special train of Pullman sleeping cars and other bogie carriages put on for the opening of the railway to Dubbo, NSW, just two days before the same train was used for the opening of the line to Albury in 1881. The weight of the big American cars required two locomotives, but they really struggled on the Blue Mountains gradients, stopping on occasion to raise steam.[153] With no need for sleeping cars on the 200 mile journey from Melbourne to Albury, the Victorians opted for a compromise, and placed orders for longer cars carried on six wheels. All with 30 foot bodies, the 1st class versions had only four spacious compartments. The 2nd class versions had five, seating a total of 50 per car, but still equating in comfort with the best of the older stock. The extra wheel set and body length increased the weight of these new designs, but the ratio of load to tare was still good compared with a bogie carriage. To obtain the most up to date British designs, Bent placed orders for 70 of these six wheelers from England. The protectionists were outraged, but he brushed them off. The new carriages were built by the Birmingham firm Brown, Marshall and Co to a design of William Stroudley,[154] Locomotive Superintendent of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway and a leading mechanical engineer of his time.[155] But as soon as they began to arrive in January 1883,[156] The Age mounted a campaign denigrating their construction, and critical of Solomon Mirls, the Locomotive Superintendent, for accepting them.[157] The newspaper typically did not mention that local builders had contracts for 1,665 wagons, 300 carriages and 66 locomotives,[158] but indulged in a flurry of carping nitpicking. There were indeed faults with the new imports, with some minor cracking of some timber panels and ventilators which needed covers to prevent the ingress of rain, but the most serious fault was the centre-line of the buffers being higher than Victorian standard.[159] This and other teething problems were rectified by the workshops, and the basic soundness of the design was confirmed when twenty four very similar carriages were ordered from the local firm of W. Williams in 1886.[160] The Brown & Marshall cars were soon running on the most important trains, including the Intercolonial Express linking the Victorian and NSW railways at Albury. So superior were they to existing stock that 41 of the second class carriages were ‘converted’ to first class by the simple expedient of a sign-writers brush. Their public acceptance forced The Age to make a volte-face. After six months of denigration they were promoting their use on all long distance services.[161]

Locomotives and Rolling Stock

The new carriages on order for the intercolonial express were heavier, which meant a more powerful express locomotive would be needed, but Victoria had lost its locomotive design capability when William Meikle returned to England in 1877. Solomon Mirls, his successor in charge of the Locomotive Branch, was a capable draughtsman but his appointment had been opposed by several newspapers on account of his perceived lack of engineering experience.[162] But he could certainly turn his hand to carriages and wagons. He had designed all the rolling stock for the D&MR,[163] and won a £200 prize in 1876 for the design of 1st and 2nd class bogie carriages.[164] Possibly his most significant carriage designs were the twin State cars built in 1880 for the planned visit of the Prince of Wales to open the Melbourne International Exhibition. Woods had directed their design while he was still Commissioner, and had Mirls mount them on India rubber pads to minimise vibration – an innovation Woods had been sold by the rubber company’s agent.[165] In the event the Prince didn’t show up, but Woods, in his role as a commissioner of the Melbourne International Exhibition, arranged for Mirls’ masterpieces to be taken to the Machinery Court[166] and there displayed along with the Phoenix built 2-4-0 No.188,[167] and Williamstown Workshops’ 0-6-0 No.129.[168]

Melbourne International Exhibition 1880.
Phoenix Foundry No.188 and Williamstown Workshops No.129 with Solomon Mirls’ twin State cars at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. Ludovico Hart, Museums Victoria Collection, 1563077.

As examples of the prowess of colonial manufacturing, the carriages and locomotives were impressive, but the designs were obsolete. With more light lines being opened, there was an urgent need to find more powerful locomotives to work them. During preparations for the International Exhibition, Commissioner Woods received a visit from a Dr. Williams, a representative of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, of Philadelphia. Then among the world’s largest locomotive builders, Williams advertised Baldwin’s capacity to build 40 locomotives in 60 days, as they had recently done with an order from the Russian government. When the civil war between the American states ended in 1865, locomotive and rolling stock manufacturers were inundated with work rebuilding and extending railroads within the USA. It was not until the mid-1870’s that American locomotive and rolling stock builders began to seek business on the world stage, and it was such a mission that brought Dr. Williams to Melbourne. He persuaded Woods to purchase two Baldwin 4-6-0 ‘Ten Wheelers’ as pattern engines. They arrived in early 1880 and rather than being shown in the International Exhibition where they would have turned many heads, they were immediately put to work. After experience with Meikle’s ‘Buzzwinkers’, the railways had settled on the Beyer, Peacock light 2-4-0 and twenty of these were built by Phoenix from 1976 to 1880, together with eight of Meikle’s light lines 4-4-0’s. These little engines could exert about 8,300 lbs tractive effort, and had axle loads of 9½ to 10½ tons. But the Baldwin 4-6-0 ‘Ten Wheeler’ spread its weight over five axles instead of three, reducing their axle load to 8¾ tons or about seven per cent less than the others. Yet they exerted a tractive effort of 12,050 lbs, nearly 50 per cent greater.[169] Clearly, this was the light lines locomotive the Victorians had been looking for over the past decade, specifically designed for hauling mixed trains over 50 lb iron rails, but the colonists had been too blinded by the narrow gauge disciples, British prejudice and protectionist ideology.

The Baldwin engines (later classified W class) were of equivalent power to the Rogers D class 4-4-0’s imported three years earlier, and were easily the most powerful light lines locomotive of the twelve different classes, variations and rebuilds that were used on the light lines, yet save only the tiny G&MR rebuilds, they were the most light footed.[170]

But despite a serious locomotive shortage it was sixteen months before an order for any new light lines engines was placed. Following ‘Black Wednesday’ 1878 the Berry government reined in expenditure and only one short branch line was authorised before they were defeated in March 1880, a month after the Baldwin locomotives arrived. After a brief five month government led by James Service, Berry again formed a government which managed to pass a Railway Construction Act three days after Christmas that year, but not until the end of June 1881 did his Minister for Railways, J.B. Patterson, sign a contract with Phoenix for ten near copies of the Baldwin engines. A few days later the government fell, and Thomas Bent was the new Minister for Railways.

Phoenix had never made anything like the American ‘Ten Wheeler’, and it took some time for Mirls to adapt the Baldwin design for local manufacture. The first of these ‘Colonial Yankees’ was not delivered until 15 months after the contract was signed.[171] Phoenix was also busy with an order Patterson had placed for 20 mainline 0-6-0’s, copied from a Beyer, Peacock pattern engine ordered by Woods in 1878.[172] These became the R class, and were somewhat larger and heavier than the T class pattern 0-6-0 supplied by the same firm five years earlier, which had remained an orphan. The pattern R class 0-6-0 became the basis of 55 copies built by Phoenix from 1881 to 1886. They exerted about 30 per cent more tractive effort than the little light lines 2-4-0’s, but with an axle load of 11¾ tons were still too heavy for lines laid with 50 lb rails.

Phoenix therefore had a full order book, and a new local builder, Robinson Bros., of South Melbourne, had been given a contract by Woods to build eight suburban tank locomotives.[173] These were copies of a ten year old 4-4-0 well-tank design built for the M&HBUR by Robert Stephenson of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and were needed to cope with growing suburban traffic after the government take-over of the Hobson’s Bay lines.[174] But after the railways’ failure to clear the 1881/82 wheat crop before some of it was damaged by weather, farmer criticism of the continuing locomotive and rolling stock shortage was being felt in parliament. Bent responded with a cunning subterfuge to quieten the farmers and work around the protectionists.[175] Pleading the urgency of more light lines engines to handle the following season’s harvest, and drawing attention to the full order books of local builders, he placed an order for ten more W class ‘Ten Wheelers’ with Baldwin, together with five heavy goods 0-6-0’s from the Belgian Manufacturing and Export Company and ten ‘heavy goods’ engines which were to be ‘especially adapted for the heavy traffic of the North-Eastern line’ by Beyer Peacock.[176] The orders were placed in mid-August 1882, but the ‘heavy goods’ engines from Beyer Peacock were in fact express 4-4-0’s with six foot diameter driving wheels! [177]

Lancefield Station.
Baldwin ‘Ten Wheeler’ W221 at Lancefield. The low centre of gravity and easily accessible machinery of these locomotives is evident. Lancefield Railway Station Gallery.

By the time the farmers and protectionists twigged that none would arrive in time for the 1882/83 harvest it was too late. The Age bemoaned ‘there is no more chance of their arriving here and being fitted up to carry this season’s traffic than there is of turning the moon from its orbit by the use of popguns.’ [178] Bent coolly deflected the hail of criticism. The Leader editorialised that the

‘gross dishonesty of his proceeding thus fully discloses itself… The Assembly has been tricked; the country has been cheated; our manufacturing artisans have been defrauded, and the farmers especially have been sold by Mr. Bent simply to benefit the foreign importer.’ [179]

Subsequently the Beyer, Peacock order was referred to vaguely as ‘passenger engines’, apparently without anyone’s awareness that they were intended for the inter-colonial expresses. The old 2-4-0’s were not ideal for the North Eastern line, especially at speed, as the track was not up to the standard of the Sandhurst and Ballarat lines. A bogie engine was needed,[180] but Mirls was not a locomotive designer, and there were no modern express engines to copy. But on his visit to Sydney in February 1882 with Bent and Woods, he would have learned of the NSW Railway’s order with Beyer, Peacock for an express 4-4-0. Bent and Mirls therefore made the sensible decision to order copies of the NSW 255 class ‘High Flyers’. The first six of the NSW engines were delivered in late 1882 and were used to haul the special trains from Sydney for the opening of the inter-colonial connection at Albury in June 1883. But the Victorian specials from Melbourne were powered by the old Sturrock 2-4-0’s, as Beyer, Peacock had a full order book and were slow in delivering the new 4-4-0.[181]

New Workshops

The workshops themselves were Mirls’ greatest concern, and he lobbied for years for their improvement.[182] By the early 1880’s, with hundreds of new vehicles being added to the rolling stock fleet, larger and better equipped workshops than those at Williamstown were urgently needed. By August 1882 the Victorian Railways were operating over 230 locomotives and 3,800 carriages and wagons, with many more being added annually to service new lines and growing traffic, but as an exasperated Mirls reported, the workshops for maintaining this fleet were

‘a scattered lot of corrugated iron sheds, located near the piers at Williamstown, ill-devised, erected piecemeal, scattered about in all directions, occasioning great loss of workmen’s time, delay in the expeditious execution of urgent repairs, and severely hampering the conduct of traffic to the shipping at the various piers.’ [183]

The workshops had been built either side of the mainline to Williamstown Pier, so that long goods trains for the Pier often blocked access from one side of the Shops to the other. During John Woods’ incumbency as Commissioner of Railways he had sought £300,000 for a new workshop in the triangle of land owned by the railways at Williamstown Junction (later Newport), where the Williamstown and Geelong lines diverged. That sum was enough to fund about 100 miles of new light lines, so with the severe restrictions on spending imposed by the Berry government after ‘Black Wednesday’ 1878 the matter was ignored. The brake on spending caused an ensuing depression – the ‘Berry Blight’[184] – during which over 500 railwaymen were laid off and a halt put to new rolling stock construction. Several privately owned workshops closed,[185] including the extensive facilities of William Williams’s Yarra Bank Workshops, which had been primarily devoted to rolling stock construction since 1862.[186] Williams offered his facilities for the use of the government in August 1878 at no cost as a means of re-employing artisans thrown out of work,[187] but Woods had the Railway Department lease them instead.[188] A year later, in one of his last acts while Commissioner of Railways, he arranged the purchase of the Yarra Bank works outright for £14,000,[189] and required the Locomotive Branch to absorb over 100 of the Yarra Bank employees.[190] The purchase was seen as one of the

‘more glaring jobs perpetrated by the [Berry] Ministry, in disregard of public opinion, in defiance of morality, and in disdain of every consideration of decency and propriety’. [191]

But in March 1880 the Berry government was defeated, leaving the railways saddled with three inefficient workshops: Williamstown, Yarra Bank and Sandridge, the latter absorbed in the M&HBUR takeover. When Bent became Commissioner of Railways later that year he decided to fully incorporate the Hobson’s Bay equipment and staff into the Victorian Railways. Solomon Mirls was sent to inspect their rolling stock and was shocked by its condition. The wagons were only fit to run 2½ miles between Sandridge and Flinders Street, twelve carriages were sent for repairs the same day and soon the Yarra Bank workshop was inundated with work, bringing the old M&HBUR fleet up to VR standard. In the six months to March 1882 the Yarra Bank and Williamstown workshops made thorough overhauls of 64 carriages, including the fitting of new standard wheels and axles, axle boxes, guard irons, drawbars, and running gear, together with general body repairs. Along with the resumption of new rolling stock construction, this left the workshops ‘nearly blocked with work’.[192] With 68 new carriages planned for 1882, including 30 to Mirls’ own design, the situation was critical.

Furthermore, the rapid expansion of the railway network without adequate provision for rolling stock was also creating problems for farmers. Stacks of bagged wheat at up-country sidings were being exposed to weather damage because there were not enough wagons available, and the facilities for grain storage at the ports were clogged.[193] Wagons and grain storages were parts of the same supply chain, and finally a solution presented itself. On the closure of the Melbourne International Exhibition at the end of April 1881, three of the Annexes were available for other use. These were re-erected: one at Sandridge, to replace the old M&HBUR workshop; one in the Spencer Street goods terminal, which became No.5 Shed and lasted until the mid-1980’s; and the last at Newport. [194] However their relocation took some time, and throughout 1881 and the first half of 1882 Mirls had to soldier on with his scattered facilities. Re-erection of the annex at Newport was complete by June 1882, and some months later £3,000 of new machinery arrived from the United States of America which revolutionised carriage building. To this was added machinery transferred from the carriage building shops at Yarra Bank and Williamstown. The Yarra Bank workshops were then vacated for the expansion of the Melbourne Goods yard, and the Williamstown carriage shop was converted for much needed grain storage.

It was an encouraging start, but Mirls pointed out that that the erection of the new sheds at Sandridge and Newport had been neutralised by the loss of Yarra Bank and one of the Williamstown shops.[195] Carriage and wagon building had been catered for, but the growing locomotive fleet was demanding better facilities. Many of the locomotives were approaching twenty years in service, and some were older. Mirls was disturbed when he inspected the ex-Hobson’s Bay engines, which had been maintained at Sandridge. He found no records had been kept, no periodical cleaning of safety valves and no testing of pressure gauges. Alarmed, he directed that no vehicle was to leave the Sandridge shop without his personal approval, and ordered three locomotive to be sent to Williamstown for overhaul.[196] Bent was persuaded to seek parliamentary approval for a new locomotive workshop on reserved land at Newport, and sought £48,000 for that purpose in his railway Construction Bill.[197] But the politicians prevaricated.

The Hawthorn accident, Railway Management Bill and the fall of Bent

The Jolimont accident occurred only six weeks into Bent’s Ministry, but the new man showed his hand by urging his Brighton constituents involved in the accident to lodge inflated compensation claims.[198] It was not long before another serious accident occurred, this time at Windsor on 18th March 1882. A Down express, which was not fitted with continuous brakes, passed a signal at danger and collided with the rear of the previous Down stopping train, which had still not cleared the platform. The impact was at low speed, and as the passengers had left the train minutes before so there were no serious injuries. Thomas Bent happened to be on hand, and assisted the staff in his shirt sleeves.[199] The Argus called for the rapid fitting of continuous brakes, which it correctly discerned was being hampered by railway indecision due to Woods’ attempts to force the fitting of his brake.[200] But Bent did nothing. Then, late in the Saturday afternoon of 2nd December, an Up special train of first class carriages returning from a land sale at Box Hill collided head-on with a regular Down suburban train between Burnley and Hawthorn. One passenger was killed and 175 injured, including friends of Graeme Berry, then leader of the Opposition. Neither train was fitted with continuous brakes, the stations were not linked by telegraph and the safeworking procedures in place were defective.[201] The impact was like ‘thunder’ and sounded the death knell of the O’Loghlen government, but in a desperate effort to hold onto power Bent dislodged the Railway Management Bill from its pigeon hole. The O’Loghlen government had promised to reform railway management, but Bent had seen no advantage in it! The year of turmoil under Elsdon was giving his cabinet colleagues cause for concern, which the Hawthorn accident turned into ‘much anxious consideration’.[202] Not least was the massive compensation payouts following the Jolimont, Windsor and Hawthorn accidents, which amounted to £183,000[203] – sufficient to build about 35 miles of new railway. The crash raised public agitation to a crescendo, and within seventeen days a desperate government had its Railway Management Bill introduced, but with only a week to Christmas, there was no immediate chance of its passage. Indeed, the whole legislative program of the O’Loghlen government had been dogged by Opposition tactics throughout 1882. Of its one hundred sitting days, 25 had been wasted in ‘want of confidence’ debates, and eight of those days were devoted to censure of the government’s (that is, Bent’s) handling of the Railways. Bent’s ‘Octopus Bill’, introduced on 13th October 1881, had still not found its way through parliament fifteen months later. With the summer temperature climbing, it was a frustrated Sir Brian O’Loghlen that called on the Governor that overcast 30th January 1883.[204] Lord Normanby signed the proclamation dissolving parliament, and the colony was thrown into its twelfth general election campaign.[205] The party was over for Bent and Woods, as on that very day the shortcomings of the Woods continuous hydraulic brake were being exposed in brake trials at Werribee. The colony had had enough of the ‘inventive genius’ of ‘Jack’ Woods.[206] His carriage design was a never to be repeated failure. He had depended on Robert Ford’s real talent, but with Ford gone his professional weakness was exposed. Solomon Mirls and his men at Williamstown Workshops were the willing ‘elaborators’ of his hydraulic brake[207] but without Woods and Bent controlling railway affairs the invention would have to stand or fall on its merits. Decades later an older Bent would re-assert his influence, but Woods’ power in railway affairs was exhausted. Politics was his abiding passion, but he nevertheless maintained an interest in railway affairs from parliament, eventually being elected onto the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways in late 1890. He attended every meeting for 18 months before his death, at the age of 69, on 2nd April 1892.[208]


  1. V.P.D., 1881, Vol. 38, p.1103. 8 December 1881.
  2. V.P.D., 1881, Vol. 38, p.1106.
  3. V.P.D., 1881, Vol. 38, p.1105.
  4. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., p.xvi.
  5. V.P.D., 1881, Vol. 38, p.1103.
  6. V.P.D., 1881, Vol. 38, p.1109.
  7. The Portland Guardian, Thursday 16 September 1880, p2.
  8. James A. Lerk. Robert Gray Ford: Colonial blacksmith, inventor, engineer and one time Bendigonian. Bendigo, 2007.p.4-8.
  9. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q.3123.
  10. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q146.
  11. The Bendigo Advertiser, Tuesday 28 December 1875, p.3. The first crossing of the temporary bridge by locomotives, with Watson and Ford in attendance, occurred on 22nd December 1875.
    Bendigo Advertiser, Saturday 27 July 1878, page 3, notes the first crossing of the permanent bridge by locomotives on 26th July 1878.
  12. The Bendigo Advertiser, Tuesday 28 December 1875, p.3.
  13. G.H. Eardly ‘The Deniliquin and Moama Railway Company’, Op. Cit., p.21-25.
  14. The Age, Tuesday 5 December 1893, p.5. John McIntosh’s evidence in the Speight versus Syme case. McIntosh was a surveyor, who served under Thomas Higinbotham, George Darbyshire and Robert Watson.
  15. The Geelong Advertiser, Tuesday 24 November 1891, p.2.
    James Lerk, Robert Gray Ford, p.42.
  16. The Bendigo Advertiser, Saturday 4 April 1868, p.2, reports the first trial of the machine at Castlemaine. Work continued on perfecting and commissioning the machine over the subsequent decade.
    The Argus, Friday 9 December 1881, p.9. Ford was working on the machine in the railway offices ‘out of hours’ in 1880.
  17. The Age, Monday 2 October 1876, p.2.
  18. The Argus, Saturday 27 December 1879, p.9.
  19. The Argus, Friday 28 September 1877, p.2.
    The Argus, Saturday 28 August 1880, p.1. Ford’s eldest daughter Elizabeth was married at Whitmuir Hall on 19th August 1880.
  20. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., p.162-63.
    The Argus, Friday 9 December 1881, p.9.
  21. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., p.155.
  22. The Portland Guardian, Thursday 16 September 1880, p2.
  23. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q.2584. Singleton said, ‘Mr. Ford has not spoken to me since some time previous to Mr. Higinbotham’s death, and I never speak to him’.
  24. The Argus, Friday 9 December 1881, p.4.
  25. The Argus, Friday 9 December 1881, p.9.
  26. The Argus, Saturday 31 July 1880, p.6.
  27. Kyneton Guardian, Wednesday 29 December 1880, p.3.
    The Age, Wednesday 19 January 1881, p.2.
    The Australasian, Saturday 16 July 1881, p.5.
  28. The Age, Saturday 18 September 1880, p.4.
  29. V.P.D., 1882, Vol. 39, p.252. Mr. R. Clark on 10 May 1882.
  30. V.P.D., 1882, Vol. 39, p.106. Mr. John Woods on 2 May 1882.
  31. V.P.D., 1882, Vol. 39, p.630. Mr. Fincham and Mr. Bowman on 13 June 1882.
  32. Leo Harrigan, Op. Cit., p.40.
  33. The Argus, Friday 11 March 1904, p.6.
  34. ‘Correspondence and Return Relative to Proposed Lines of Railway’. Op.Cit.
    ‘Negotiations between the Government of Victoria and the Melbourne and Hobson’s Bay United Railway Company for the Purchase of their Property’ . Op. Cit.
  35. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q.7392.
  36. James A. Lerk, Op. Cit., p.34.
    ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q.7062.
  37. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit, p.155.
  38. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Mr. J. T. Thompson’s evidence p.60-61. He was a general draughtsman.
  39. The Argus, Saturday 8 July 1882, p.13.
  40. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q.1553.
  41. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q.763, Q.1891.
  42. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q.3102-3108.
  43. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Findings. p. ix.
  44. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., p. x.
  45. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., p. x–xi.
  46. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q.5283.
  47. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q. 5362-5364.
  48. S.M. Ingham, O’Loghlen, Sir Bryan (1828–1905), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974.
  49. The Argus, Saturday 18 September 1909, p.19.
    The Herald, Friday 17 September 1909, p.5.
  50. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., p.34.
  51. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Appendix A. p.215.
  52. Leo Harrigan, Op. Cit., p.177.
  53. V.P.D., 1881, Vol. 38, p.1097.
  54. The Argus, Tuesday 27 September 1881, p.6.
  55. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 38, p.1101, 1110.
  56. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 38, p.1101, 1110.
  57. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 38, p.1103.
  58. The Argus, Friday 9 December 1881, p.4.
  59. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 38, p.1110.
  60. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 38, p.1103.
  61. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 38, p.1110.
  62. The Argus, Thursday 1 June 1882, p.9.
  63. V.P.D, 1882, Vol. 39, p.106.
  64. The Argus, Thursday 1 June 1882, p.9.
  65. The Argus, Friday 27 January 1882, p.5.
    The Argus, Thursday 28 October 1880, p.36. The M&HBUR had installed Saxby & Farmer equipment in the Swan Street signal box prior to their take-over by the Victorian Railways.
  66. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Appendix A.
  67. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q.7377.
  68. The Hamilton Spectator, Thursday 16 February 1882, p.2.
  69. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., p.ii, 215.
  70. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., p.13-14.
  71. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., p.xiii.
  72. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., p.12.
  73. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction’, Op. Cit., Q.2234.
  74. The Age, Thursday 3 August 1882, p.2.
  75. The Age, Tuesday 25 July 1882, p.2.
  76. The Argus, Thursday 4 August 1887, p.4., Tuesday 9 August 1887, p.5.
  77. The Age, Tuesday 19 September 1882, p.3.
  78. The Age, Tuesday 19 September 1882, p.3.
  79. James A. Lerk, Op. Cit., p.43.
    The Age, Wednesday 16 December 1891, p.4.
  80. The Age, Wednesday 14 June 1882, p.6.
  81. V.P.D, 1882, Vol. 39, p.129-130, 2 May, p.139, 3 May. Charges were made by Mr. Fincham.
  82. V.P.D, 1882, Vol. 39, p.48, 28 April.
    The Argus, Thursday 19 December 1878, p.4.
  83. The Argus, Saturday 8 April 1882, p.8.
  84. V.P.D, 1882, Vol. 39, p.196.
  85. The Argus, Thursday 1 June 1882, p.9.
  86. V.P.D, 1882, Vol. 39, p.153.
  87. The Age, Tuesday 2 May 1882, p.2.
  88. The Argus, Friday 14 April 1882, p.9.
  89. Leo Harrigan, Op. Cit., p.248.
  90. The Argus, Wednesday 1 August 1883, p.9.
  91. V.P.D, 1882, Vol. 39, p.130. 2nd May.
  92. The Melbourne Punch, Thursday 13 April 1882, p.8.
  93. The Argus, Wednesday 12 April 1882, p.6.
  94. Melbourne Punch, Thursday 23 February 1893, p.14. William Henry Greene is usually referred to as ‘W.H. Greene’, but his wife was Mrs. William Greene. Therefore when addressed by his Christian name it would have been William.
  95. The Argus, Wednesday 12 April 1882, p.6.
  96. The Argus, Wednesday 8 September 1880, p6. The others included former Premier, Sir James McCulloch, and fellow railway managers Wells, the Acting Engineer-in-Chief, and Francis, Traffic Manager.
  97. Leo Harrigan, Op. Cit., p.277-78.
  98. The Age, Tuesday 25 April 1882, p.1.
  99. The Age, Tuesday 25 April 1882, p.1.
  100. The Age, Friday 14 April 1882, p.2.
  101. R.L. Wettenhall, Op. cit., p.17.
  102. H.G. Turner, Op. Cit., p.242.
  103. H.G. Turner, Op. Cit., p.244.
  104. R.L. Wettenhall, Op. cit., p.16.
  105. R.L. Wettenhall, Op. cit., p.22.
  106. V.P.P, 1882-83, Vol. 1, C.14. ‘Public Departments – Persons Employed In and Promoted Since 1st July 1881. W.R. Martin, Engineer for Surveys, promoted from £600 to £650 on 1st August 1881.
  107. V.P.P, 1882-83, Vol. 1, C.14. ‘Public Departments etc’., G.C. Darbyshire was promoted from £600 to £750 as Engineer for Surveys on 13th April 1882.
  108. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 37, pp.364, 1207, 1219, 1227.
  109. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 37,, p.1221.
  110. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 37,, p.1224.
  111. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 37, p.1211.
  112. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 37, p.1211.
  113. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 37, p.1211.
  114. V.P.D, 1881, Vol. 37, p.1211.
  115. The Argus, Friday 19 May 1882, p.9.
  116. The Argus, Thursday 8 June 1882, p.6.
  117. The Age, Thursday 8 June 1882, p.2.
  118. NSW:Bowning.
  119. Cobb & Co. Coach at Barraba, NSW circa 1900. Photo by Percy Williams.
  120. K.A. Austin, Op. Cit, p.139-143.
  121. The Argus, Thursday 13 July 1876, p.4. Also, The Evening News (Sydney), Saturday 24 May 1879, p.3.
  122. The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 13 October 1877, p.4 Also, The Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney), Saturday 8 December 1877, p.18, and Saturday 15 December 1877, p.18.
  123. The Argus, Monday 4 February 1878, p.5. The RMSS Tanjore arrived in Melbourne at 7am on Saturday 2nd February 1878, and the 81 bags of mail for Sydney were forwarded by special train to Wodonga that same evening.
  124. NSW:Bomen.
    The line reached North Wagga Wagga (later renamed Bomen) on 3 September 1878, but another year elapsed before the Murrumbidgee River was bridged to take the railway into Wagga Wagga proper.
  125. The Evening News (Sydney), Saturday 24 May 1879, p.3. Also, The Australian Town and Country Journal, Saturday 17 November 1877, p.33.
  126. The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 1 January 1881, p.5.
  127. David Cooke, Don Estell, Keith Seckold, John Beckhaus and Dennis Toohey Coaching Stock of the NSW Railways, (Eveleigh press, Sydney, 1999) p.64-5.
  128. The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Saturday 5 February 1881, p. 6.
  129. L.A. Clark, Passenger Cars of the NSWR, (Canberra, 1972). p.22.
  130. The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 21 August 1882, p.3.
  131. The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 2 February 1881, p.7.
  132. Robert Lee, Colonial Engineer: John Whitton 1819-1898 and the Building of Australia’s Railways, (Sydney, 2000), Chapter Seven.
  133. The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, Saturday 25 September 1880, p.610.
  134. The Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney), Saturday 14 December 1878, p.18.
  135. The Australasian, Saturday 22 January 1887, p.29. The cost a special mail train from Adelaide to Melbourne was £200 for just over 500 miles. Albury-Sydney was about 400 miles. A gatekeeper’s cottage could be built for a little over £100 (Victorian Railways Annual Report 1881, p.26 – Contract 1407).
  136. The Goulburn Herald, Thursday 16 February 1882, p.3.
    The Weekly Times, Saturday 18 February 1882, p.17.
  137. The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 31 May 1882, p.7.
  138. The Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Tuesday 5 September 1882, p.5. The line on the Victorian side was contracted to Mitchell, Newell and Dalgleish. Nearly a quarter of its length was on wooden trestle bridging over the swamps and Wodonga Creek.
  139. The Goulburn Herald, Thursday 16 February 1882, p.3.
  140. The Ballarat Courier, Wednesday 26 March 1879, p.2.
  141. The Argus, Monday 25 June 1883, p.6.
  142. The Age, Monday 17 April 1882, p.3.
  143. Evening News (Sydney), Friday 23 May 1879, p.3.
    Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Tuesday 27 May 1879, p.7.
    Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Saturday 27 August 1881, p. 4.
    Sydney Daily Telegraph, Friday 16 December 1881, p.3.
  144. Victorian Railways Annual Report, 1879. p.26. Contract let to A. Dempster, 14 May.
  145. Victorian Railways Annual Report, 1882. p.50. Contract let to A. Dempster, 10 February.
  146. The Geelong Advertiser, Wednesday 3 May 1882, p.2.
  147. The Age, Monday 6 September 1875, p.2.
  148. Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 30th June 1876, Appendix 3, p.18. 100 kerosene lamps ordered. Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 30th June 1877, Appendix 3, p.33. 300 kerosene lamps ordered. Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 30th June 1880, Appendix 4, p.23. 200 kerosene lamps ordered. Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 30th June 1881, Appendix 4, p.26. 100 kerosene lamps ordered.
  149. Norman Cave, John Buckland and David Beardsell. Op. Cit., p.231.
  150. Based on an average 15 ton tare and 17 persons/ton, 25 foot cars with four compartments suitable for longer distances:-
    Loads and capacity: B class loco and 4-wheeled cars Maximum load of 140 tons on a 1 in 50 grade
    Car Class Tare (tons) Seats Pass. Tons Gross (tons) Cars/ Train Train Load Total Seats
    B (2nd) 15 40 2.4 17.4 6 104.1 240
    A (1st) 15 32 1.9 16.9 2 33.8 64
    Totals 8 137.9 304
  151. The Australian, Windsor, Richmond, and Hawkesbury Advertiser, Saturday 19 March 1881, p.3.
  152. The Weekly Times, Saturday 24 December 1881, p.8.
  153. The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 2 February 1881, p.7.
  154. The Argus, Tuesday 26 December 1882, p.6.
  155. Grace’s Guide William Stroudley
  156. The Argus, Wednesday 3 January 1883, p.1.
  157. The Age, Saturday 6 January 1883, p.5. The campaign continued for six months, culminating in a letter by ‘Red Light’ condemning Mirls (but not by name). See:- The Age, Thursday 14 June 1883, p.3.
  158. Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 31st December 1882, Appendix 24.
  159. The Age, Thursday 14 June 1883, p.3.
  160. Victorian Railways Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Branch, Diagrams and Particulars of Locomotives Cars and Wagons, March 1897. Diagram of AB134-157 Built by W. Williams, 1886-87.
  161. The Age, Tuesday 31 July 1883, p.6.
  162. The Ballarat Courier, Tuesday 13 February 1877, p.2.
  163. The Age, Wednesday 7 February 1877, p.2.
  164. The Argus, Tuesday 11 January 1876, p.5.
    The Argus, Friday 14 January 1876, p.5.
  165. The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 8 October 1879, p.5.
  166. The Age, Tuesday 31 August 1880, p.2.
    The Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 11 September 1880, p.3.
  167. The Argus, Monday 4 April 1892, p.5.
  168. Norman Cave, John Buckland and David Beardsell. Op. Cit., p.48.
  169. Norman Cave, John Buckland and David Beardsell. Op. Cit., p.76, 92.
  170. ‘Classification of Locomotive Diagrams’, Op. Cit.
    M.H.W. Clark and J.C.M. Rolland, Op. Cit. Sheets 5-7. The Baldwin pattern engines were Nos. 153 and 155.
  171. Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 31st December 1882, Appendix 4, p.26. Contract let 30 June 1882.
  172. Norman Cave, John Buckland and David Beardsell. Op. Cit., p.116.
  173. Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 31st December 1882, Appendix 4, p.23. Contract let 12 September 1879.
  174. Norman Cave, John Buckland and David Beardsell. Op. Cit., p.103.
  175. The Argus, Wednesday 16 August 1882, p.4.
  176. The Weekly Times, Saturday 2 September 1882, p.7.
  177. The Weekly Times, Saturday 7 April 1883, p.13.
  178. The Age, Tuesday 20 February 1883, p.4.
  179. The Leader, Saturday 2 September 1882, p.16.
  180. Norman Cave, John Buckland and David Beardsell. Op. Cit., p.118.
  181. Norman Cave, John Buckland and David Beardsell. Op. Cit., p.51, 217. B76 is recorded as running the Limited Express to Albury on 21 August 1883. Although not the train for the opening ceremonies, the locomotive and carriages would have been similar.
    The Age, Monday 7 August 1882, p.2. Also; The Leader, Saturday 2 September 1882, p.16.
  182. Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 31st December 1879, Appendix 2, p.18.
  183. The Argus, Friday 18 August 1882, p.9.
  184. The Argus, Monday 30 December 1878, p.4.
  185. The Argus, Tuesday 20 August 1878, p.6.
  186. Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne), Wednesday 22 January 1879, p.11.
  187. The Argus, Tuesday 20 August 1878, p.6.
  188. The Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne), Wednesday 22 January 1879, p.11.
  189. The Argus, Friday 30 January 1880, p.5.
  190. The Argus, Wednesday 21 January 1880, p.4.
  191. The Bendigo Advertiser, Friday 27 February 1880, p.3.
  192. The Argus, Friday 14 April 1882, p.9.
  193. The Leader, Saturday 9 September 1882, p.16.
  194. Leo Harrigan, Op. Cit., p.205.
    The Argus, Tuesday 16 May 1882, p.4.
    The Weekly Times, Saturday 27 August 1881, p.9.
  195. Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 31st December 1882, p.27.
  196. The Argus, Friday 14 April 1882, p.9.
  197. The Argus, Friday 18 August 1882, p.9.
  198. The Argus, Friday 18 August 1882, p.14.
  199. The Age, Monday 20 March 1882, p.2.
  200. The Argus, Monday 20 March 1882, p.4.
  201. The Argus, Monday 4 December 1882, pp. 4, 6., and Leo Harrigan, Op. Cit., p.274., and Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 6 December 1882, p.9.
  202. V.P.D, 1882, Vol. 41, p.2873.
  203. Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 31st December 1881, p.10, and year ended 31st December 1882, p.15.
  204. The Argus, Wednesday 31 January 1883, p.6.
  205. V.P.D, 1882, Vol. 41. Notice of Prorogation of Parliament at the rear of the volume.
  206. Melbourne Punch, Thursday 9 February 1882, p.6.
  207. The Argus, Monday 5 March 1883, p.4.
  208. The Argus, Monday 4 April 1892, p.5.